We Need To Talk About: Taming the Tigers

There are some key factors when it comes to teams being successful in extracting themselves from a Champions Cup pool. Chief among them are: win your home games; pick up bonus points whenever you can; and don’t let your rivals get anything out of the game if possible. Glasgow could not have asked for more from their opening encounter in Pool 1 with former champions (and 2015/16 semi-finalists) Leicester. The result itself was built on a spell that lasted just over 12 minutes but saw the Warriors build a lead they would not relinquish.

21:03 – Finn Russell kick off. Score 3-10

Leicester have just scored from that perennial Achilles heel of Scottish sides, the rolling maul. It’s 14-a-side but Matt ‘Tip Tackle’ Toomua is due back in a couple of minutes whereas Ryan Wilson has only just started his sin bin. Referee Mathieu Raynal seems distinctly unimpressed with all aspects of the Warriors play, penalising them 8 times in the first 20 minutes. It’s been a ropey old first quarter for Glasgow and the Scotstoun crowd are getting twitchy.

First order of business – get the ball back. Finally a friendly decision from M. Raynal sees Leicester penalised for crossing at the kick off. There’s no consideration of a long-range shot at goal as Finn Russell bangs the ball into touch. Time for the Warriors to take control.

Try scored by – Leonardo Sarto (Russell conversion)
Starting point
 – lineout 15m from the Leicester line
Phases of possession – 14
Time of possession – 2m 00s
Key moment – Finn Russell’s half-break immediately prior to Leo’s try scoring intervention

giphy

The team are looking to get straight back onto the front foot with a quality catch and carry to take the game to Leicester yet again. A cute bit of play by Fraser Brown, making sure Dan Cole cannot get away at the ensuing ruck, leads to another Warriors’ penalty after Josh Strauss is tackled. Glasgow are immediately back on the attack…

Try scored by – Fraser Brown (Russell conversion)
Starting point
 – lineout 30m from the Leicester line
Phases of possession – 9
Time of possession – 55s
Key moment – Rory Hughes’ Scotstoun Express through the heart of a ruck, turning the Leicester defence

giphy-1

Josh Strauss’ return of the kick-off is the strongest carry of the night, bumping off 3 Leicester players before dragging another defender 5 metres up the pitch. Finn Russell gives the visitors their first glimmer of hope, sending the ball high into the air for Veiuna to take in – but the men from the Midlands knock on at the very next tackle to return the ball to Glasgow.

Try scored by – Henry Pyrgos (Russell missed conversion)
Starting point
 – scrum 35m from the Leicester line
Phases of possession – 8
Time of possession – 59s
Key moment – a 1-2 punch as Leo Sarto’s line break after some nifty passing among the backs is followed by Tim Swinson’s more agricultural (but equally as effective) approach through the middle

giphy-2

33:37 – Owen Williams kick off. Score 22-10


12 minutes and 34 seconds have elapsed on the match clock between Finn Russell’s kick off with the score at 3-10 and Owen Williams’ restart at 22-10. The ball has been in play for 4 minutes and 50 seconds (38% of game time). Leicester have had possession for just 19 seconds during this purple patch for Glasgow and have seemingly been powerless to stop the onslaught.

This has been a complete team performance, everyone has contributed with passes, carries and effective ruck clearouts (OTOTM hasn’t included actions at rucks where Leicester were not contesting). In terms of sheer volume of work though particular kudos is due to Jonny Gray, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson.

PASSES
21 Henry Pyrgos
4 Finn Russell
3 Jonny Gray
2 Sam Johnson
1 Fraser Brown
1 Rory Hughes
1 Tim Swinson
CARRIES
5 Zander Fagerson
5 Jonny Gray
5 Rory Hughes
3 Henry Pyrgos
3 Josh Strauss
3 Tim Swinson
2 Fraser Brown
2 Leonardo Sarto
1 Mark Bennett
1 Robert Harley
1 Stuart Hogg
1 Sam Johnson
1 Gordon Reid
1 Finn Russell
CLEAROUTS
6 Fraser Brown
5 Gordon Reid
3 Robert Harley
3 Stuart Hogg
2 Zander Fagerson
2 Jonny Gray
2 Josh Strauss
2 Ryan Wilson
1 Mark Bennett
1 Rory Hughes
1 Sam Johnson
1 Finn Russell

OTOTM’s top 5 stat takeaways:

  1. Jonny Gray is a key distributor, changing the point of attack right on the gain line.
  2. Having Zander Fagerson on the pitch is like having another back row – but one who can anchor a scrum as well!
  3. Gordon Reid’s carrying numbers may be lower than in seasons gone by but he is an important element of the Warriors breakdown work and quest for quick ball.
  4. Rory Hughes came looking for work more than any other back.
  5. Clearing out is primarily the preserve of the forwards but when needed all of Glasgow’s backline are more than willing to get involved.

In all likelihood this was the best 12 minute spell of Gregor Townsend’s reign – possibly even in the club’s history. A similar performance level on Saturday would go a long way to ensuring Glasgow’s progress to the Champions Cup quarter finals.

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